The Board of County Commissioners held virtual business meetings on February 2 and 16 with agendas of 646 pages. The magnitude of these agendas makes it clear just how deep into our private lives county government intrudes. They also held a Work Session on February 9. Most of these meetings covered routine administrative actions but there are some notable items.
On February 2, the BOCC reviewed Climate Action Grants derived from the Marcoplos climate tax added to the property tax. This tax increase was over $400,000 for 2020. The highest-ranking grant requests were $95,000 to install solar panels on 10 rooftops, $122,000 for 30 hot water heaters (over $4,000 each!!!!), $75,000 for a Cane Creek solar array, $40,000 for planting 40 trees ($1,000 per tree!!!) and $18,000 for an electric vehicle charging station to provide free charges (while most of us have to pay for our own fuel and the highway taxes along with it) and $220,000 for 40 LED community multi-use park field lights.
The BOCC also made appointments to the Justice Advisory Council, the Broadband Task Force, and the Election Advisory Group. I’ve lost track of just how many commissions, advisory boards, and groups the BOCC has created.
Another item on the agenda was the approval of an $8.2 million increase in the 2020 – 2021 budget. They just can’t help themselves from spending, spending and spending!! There is never any relief on taxes.
The February 16 Virtual Business Meeting was more business as usual and included acknowledgement of the withdrawal of Buc-ee’s gas station plan request. We really didn’t want those 200 jobs and property and sales tax revenues here in Orange County (sarcasm).
An important note about the February 9 Virtual Work Session—the Board discussed the continuing attempt to infringe on 2nd Amendment rights of citizens based on buffer zones around residential areas. They try to make it sound reasonable, but the devil is in the details. If you are a gun owner you need to watch this development very closely in order to protect your Constitutionally guaranteed right to keep and bear arms.
Not directly a part of the BOCC activities but noteworthy as another example of county government’s unnecessary costly programs and disregard for the taxpayers, the Orange County Public Transportation entity announced a new program. They will be running an on-demand pilot transport service in direct competition to services like Uber and Lyft for the next six months in Hillsborough. Using Orange County employees, they will respond to calls for passenger pick up for a flat fee of $5. A typical call will take about an hour so labor cost alone will be around $25; it is unclear what the cost of the vehicle will be. The taxpayers will be on the tab for quite a bit per ride and, of course, for all unused capacity. The agency claims this is in line with their core values—I didn’t think a core value of government was to engage in taxpayer-subsidized competition against private sector businesses. The agency also says it will expand the program if it is successful. There may be no free lunch but it looks like there will be nearly free rides!!!
As always, I urge you to visit the Government tab on the Orange County website and see what is going on. Local government has a major impact on our lives. Also volunteer to join any county-created advisory group, task force, or commission that interests you in order to influence local government. That is the only way we get government of, by and for the citizens.
- Riley J. Ruske
Orange County Citizen
Editor's Note: The next meeting of the BOCC is scheduled for Mar 2 at 7 PM. The agenda may be found here or you may go here to stream the video of the meeting live from home.